‘The Petersburg Problem’
On November 2nd, 2023, at 0500 I left USP Atlanta and began my 12 plus hour journey to FCC Petersburg on the most uncomfortable and degrading bus ride you can imagine. I was shackled at my waist, my feet and hands with a “black box” added to further limit my already restricted movement. The tobacco chewing, vape smoking and gun toting guards from USP Lee (who openly bragged about making overtime for doing this transport) routinely made hostile and derogatory comments toward us too vulgar to repeat now. Throughout the duration of the trip, the guards kept the air-conditioning on full blast and the radio cranked to a volume which made both communication and sleep impossible. Repeated requests for relief from the frigid conditions (we were wearing paper pants & thin cotton tops) and blaring music were answered with an increase in both- and loud mocking laughter. There was a restroom on board, but we were warned prior to departure that if anyone used it we would be in “violation of the rules of the road and dealt with accordingly.”
Eventually, and despite being only roughly 2 hours from D.C., we stopped at the sprawling complex that would become our personal hell for the next two weeks- FCC Petersburg. After being shouted off the bus we were berated for not knowing where to go during the intake process- despite being told different things by different guards. Without any food or toilet paper, we were crammed (30-40 of us) into a holding cell for 3 more grueling hours.
Now, sometime well after 2000/ 8:00p.m. we were herded back to the special housing unit or “SHU” which is typically reserved for ‘problem inmates’ dealing with disciplinary infractions or those deemed to be too dangerous to be housed within the general population. My only infraction was waking up that morning as a PRE-TRIAL January 6th detainee in Joe Biden’s America and once my cell door in the SHU at FCC Petersburg closed, it would not open again…for 14 days.
For the next two weeks I did not leave the room that is smaller than your bathroom even once. I was provided no access to recreation of any kind nor even a whiff of fresh air. For 14 days I was denied access to everything that makes time behind bars somewhat manageable. I had no books (not even a Bible), no access to commissary, no laundry services (clean clothes/linens), no toothpaste or toilet paper rolls, no phone calls, no stamps to send mail, no visits, only minimal hygiene products provided at intake and no end in sight!
For 14 nights my family went to bed not knowing why I’d suddenly stopped calling, what was going on or where I was. As a PRE-TRIAL inmate at a crucial point in my case, I had no ability to communicate with my attorney, no access to my legal materials and no way of participating in my defense as critical days were crossed off the calendar.
Due to my exhaustion from the bus ride from hell, the first few days were relatively manageable as I caught up on sleep- despite the lights in my cell being left on 24/7. Eventually, however…staring at the same 4 walls and my only human interaction coming in the form of masked guards banging on my door began to wear on me.
I filed multiple grievances and inmate request forms that went unanswered. Only once during the 2-weeks of isolation did a psych nurse make rounds after listening to my concerns, she apologized and said the only thing she could offer was a crossword puzzle…but no pens or pencils. Literally every guard and staff member I spoke with regarding the situation claimed, “not to work on this unit” or deferred to someone else- with one even claiming I deserved to be in the SHU because “you wanna act like a terrorist, you can be treated like a terrorist.”
To be clear, I am not a terrorist and have never engaged in acts of terror of any kind. The only people I saw engaged in terrorism were the guards at FCC Petersburg who kept me locked in isolation for 14 days without cause, left my lights on all night, fed me spoiled/moldy food (or withheld it), lied and harassed with impunity and refused to provide my family information about the situation.
I’m not unique in this experience and certainly never expected to receive special treatment of any kind, however, myself, all J6 detainees, and those currently languishing behind those bars deserve to be treated with dignity and basic decency- unfortunately, that isn’t happening at FCC Petersburg and that MUST change!
Dominic X. Box